Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 60.djvu/114

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106
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
THE IMPORTANCE OF GENERAL STATISTICAL IDEAS.[1]
By Sir ROBERT GIFFEN, K.C.B., LL.D., F.R.S.

I TRUST you will excuse me, on an occasion like the present, for returning to a topic which I have discussed more than once — the utility of common statistics. While we are indebted for much of our statistical knowledge to elaborate special inquiries, such as were made by Mr. Jevons on prices and the currency, or have lately been made by Mr. Booth into the condition of the London poor, we are indebted for other knowledge to continuous official and unofficial records, which keep us posted up to date as to certain facts of current life and business, without which public men and men of business, in the daily concerns of life, would be very much at a loss. What seems to me always most desirable to understand is the importance of some of the ideas to be derived from the most common statistics of the latter kind — the regular records of statistical facts which modem societies have instituted, especially the records of the census, which have now existed for a century in most European countries and among peoples of European origin. Political ideas and speculation are necessarily colored by ideas originating in such records, and political action, internationally and otherwise, would be all the wiser if the records were more carefully observed than they are, and the lessons to be derived widely appreciated and understood.

I propose now to refer briefly to one or two of these ideas which were taken up and discussed on former occasions,[2] and to illustrate the matter farther by a reference to one or two additional topics suggested in the same manner, and more particularly by the results of the last census investigations, which complete in this respect the record of what may be called the statistical century par excellence — the century which has just closed.

 

Increase of European Population during last Century.

The first broad fact then of this kind, which I have discussed on former occasions, is the enormous increase of the population of Eu-

  1. Address of the President to the Economic Science and Statistics Section of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. Glasgow, 1901.
  2. Cf. Essays in Finance, 2nd series, pp. 275-364, and Proceedings of Manchester Statistical Society, October 17, 1900.